Book Review of 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works- A True Story by Dan Harris

I was looking for a book that had been recommended to me when I saw this one on the library shelf. Vaguely remembering having seen the accompanying podcast on a “Best Podcasts Ever” or similar list, I decided to give it chance. 10% Happier is Dan Harris’s personal journey from being a “lifelong nonbeliever” in anything remotely spiritual or religious to practicing regular meditation and mindfulness in the very competitive and sometimes not-so-nice field of broadcast news.

The first thing that really stood out to me was Mr. Harris’s very candid style of writing. I enjoyed that he wrote from a place of equality with the reader instead of sounding like he had word salad or act like he knew all of the Secrets of the Universe and was condescendingly doweling them out. I enjoyed hearing what he thought every step through his journey, which echoed thoughts I’ve had myself. He gives us his thoughts on every subject, just as they came, regardless of how events played out later. His honest first impressions as well as the pros and cons of each message was gone over. He has no problem admitting that he routinely dismissed and prejudged people who he later found had something worthwhile to offer him (or not, in some cases).

10% Happier spoke to a lot of the struggles I personally have had on the journey for self-improvement and particularly on the ideas of meditation and “letting go”. By questioning every authority on the matter that he came to meet, he was able to give an inner dialogue that could have been a recording of my own thoughts: Meditating and thinking about how bad his back hurt, when would it end, why does everyone use the pseudo-calm automated system voice? How to be totally in the Here and Now but still think about saving for retirement? If everything is impermanent, then why bother caring about anything? Ok, I hear the words you’re saying, but HOW do I do that?

Mr. Harris didn’t take anything, ranging from Oprah-approved Eckhart Tolle through meeting with the Dalai Lama, at face value and really ruminated on and questioned the lessons from each. (Side not: I want to host tea for the Dalai Lama and the Pope because they’re both wonderful people and just so darn cute!) I especially enjoyed his at first reticent and later insatiably curious look at every religion, philosophy, and self-help gimmick that fell in his way.

This book also brings up a few random thoughts: I think there needs to be some crossover between “self-help” and biography sections and that I was pleasantly surprised that he had me looking up definitions. I am a sucker for succinctly written works, especially written in such a familiar and honest tone.

Summing up, I really enjoyed 10% Happier. It’s definitely not what is usually found in the self-help section, but in a good way. I’ll probably even download the first couple episodes of his podcast and give them a go.